There is a benefit of not receiving unconditional love; one strives to be respected instead.
- A father: Your greatest achievement is sitting right next to you.
- Another father: Oh no. Writing a book is a greater achievement than having a child.
- (Some months later)
- The man I call "father": You're not thinking of having children are you? I certainly don't want grandchildren.
- Me: No, don't worry. I'll write a book instead.
I did not grow up in a musical household. In fact, the house was mostly devoid of music except for when my mother would hum and sing to herself. To this day, in the morning when we are both getting ready for work, as she makes tea, I can recognise the faint tune drifting through the flat.
Sen zahmet etme yerinden / Don’t you bother yourself
Gürültü yapmam derinden / I won’t make a sound
Parmaklarım üzerinden / Through fingers
Su gibi akar giderim / I’ll fall away like water, I’ll leave
- A verse from my mother’s favourite song “Giderim” by Ahmet Kaya
Ahmet Kaya, like my mother, was born and grew up in relative poverty in the central eastern Anatolian city of Malatya. In his teens Kaya, like millions of others, became an economic migrant and moved to Istanbul.
In Turkey is it possible to go as far as to say everything is political, even music. In the mid-70s the country was gripped by ideologically motivated political violence that culminated, but did not end, with the 1980 coup d’état. It is estimated that some 5,000 died during this period. One of them was a friend of Kaya’s, shot by unknown assailants during a Labour Day parade in Taksim Square.
Kaya’s first album, “Ağlama Bebeğim” was released in 1985. It was banned from sale and he was arrested. During the trial the judge questioned him about a particular lyric: “Far off there are places like that, places of happiness”. He was released and the ban was lifted; this became an integral part of his early career whenever he released an album. I was on a flight to Istanbul earlier this year and ended up chatting to the businessman next to me. He was from Gaziantep and owned a car mechanic service shop. He recalled an incident in the early 90s; a young Kurdish mechanic working for him at the time was stopped by traffic police:
“He was so scared.”
“Of the police searching the car and finding the Ahmet Kaya cassettes.”
In hindsight it sounds absurd but in 1999, at an award ceremony Kaya was presented with ‘Best Artist of the Year’ award and his acceptance speech not only prompted other artists to throw forks at him, it was also what lead to him being hounded out of the country.
“I would like to thank the Human Rights Association, Cumartesi Anneleri, all of the working press and all of the people of Turkey for this award. I also have something to declare: the album I am currently working on and that will be released in the coming days, I sing one song in Kurdish. I will be making a music video for this song. I know there are courageous TV producers among you who will broadcast the video. If it is not broadcast, I don’t know how they will face the people of this country.”
That same year the Governor of Ordu banned not only the sale of Ahmet Kaya cassettes but also their possession. Kaya was declared a ‘traitor of the nation’, the character assassination and campaign by the press so vicious that he fled to Paris where he in died in exile in 2000. Hürriyet, a national daily newspaper, had fabricated stories linking Ahmet Kaya to the PKK.
On the anniversary of Kaya’s birth, October 28, it was announced that he would be receiving the Presidential Grand Award in Culture and Arts. It was high time that he was recognised as a cultural treasure. For me, Ahmet Kaya like Hrant Dink demonstrated that that one identity (Turkish) does not negate the other (Kurdish, or Armenian as in Dink’s case).
When I asked my mother what it is about Ahmet Kaya’s songs that she likes so much, she said that in his music there was a sense of brotherhood, a sense of solidarity, and of his courage for singing unspoken truths. She said that Kaya was “adam gibi adam”. Although the words translate as “a man like a man”, the concept is subtle and more complex as it alludes to the honour and dignity of a person.
Lastly, she said, “He reminds me of my father”.
 Please note that the translation is my own. The structure of Turkish is wildly different to that of English and it is not related to the Indo-European family of languages but belongs to the controversial Altaic language family. My translation is not verbatim and but aims to capture the poetry and overall meaning of the lyrics.
 Assassinations were commonplace at the time, with some reports suggesting there were many as 10 deaths per day.
 A civil society group that arranges peaceful protests to draw attention to the thousands of persons who went missing as a result of the 1980 coup d’état.
- Him: Next time I walk into your office and you are having a chat, you stop and pay attention to my request. I suspect you were not talking about anything serious. And even if it was, it is not as serious as my business.
- Me: We were talking about jihadi twitter feeds, but certainly, next time will not make the same mistake.
- Him: Now about this visa...
"Bıyık geliyor gidiyor işte."- My waxer, Nur.
I asked her if she had been busy today, and she told me that she had had one client in the morning and since then only “moustaches had come and gone.”
- 650,000 people were arrested.
- 1,683,000 people were blacklisted.
- 230,000 people were tried in 210,000 lawsuits.
- The death penalty was sought for 7,000 people.
- 517 persons were sentenced to death.
- 50 of those given the death penalty were executed (26 political prisoners, 23 criminal offenders and 1 ASALA militant).
- The files of 259 people, for which the death penalty had been requested, were sent to the National Assembly.
- 71,000 people were judged on account of articles 141, 142 and 163 of the Turkish Penal Code.
- 98,404 people were judged on charges of being members of a leftist, a rightist, a nationalist, a conservative, etc. organisation.
- 388,000 people were refused passports.
- 30,000 people were dismissed from their firms because they were suspects and therefore “inconvenient”.
- 14,000 people were removed from citizenship.
- 30,000 people sought political asylum abroad.
- 300 people died in a suspicious manner.
- 171 people are known to have died because of torture.
- 937 films were banned because these were found objectionable.
- 23,677 associations had their activities stopped.
- 3,854 teachers, 120 lecturers and 47 judges were dismissed.
- A total of 4000 years imprisonment was requested for 400 journalists.
- Journalists were sentenced 3315 years and 6 months imprisonment.
- 31 journalists went to jail.
- 300 journalists were attacked.
- 3 journalists were shot dead.
- For 300 days newspapers were not published.
- 303 cases were opened against 13 major newspapers.
- 39 tonnes of newspapers and magazines were destroyed.
- 299 people lost their lives in prison.
- 144 people died in a suspicious manner.
- 14 people died in a hunger strike.
- While fleeing, 16 people were shot.
- 95 people were killed in combat.
- “Natural death report” was given for 73 persons.
- The cause of death of 43 people was announced as “suicide”.
My grandfather taught me that the fruit of every tree had to be eaten. He said that if a tree bore fruit, no matter how old or young, that at least one piece of fruit had to be eaten. If it was not, then the tree would ”küsmek” and refuse to bear any more fruit for years to come.
There really is no equivalent word in English but “küsmek”. It means to not be on speaking terms, but it is more serious than that. If someone is küs with you, it is because you have offended or hurt them deeply. Although the initial reason for the silence may be trivial, the silence grows and becomes a gap too wide to bridge.
This happened to a particular peachtree, who refused to give us fruit for 3 years.
Over the weekend of 7-8 September, Ankara saw protest erupt first in ODTÜ (Middle East Technical University) and it’s surrounding neighbourhoods, 100. Yıl & Ciğdem and Here is Why
Why are we opposed to the highway that will pass through our neighbourhood and the METU campus?
Mayor Melih Gökçek turned Ankara’s traffic into one giant gridlock. As a solution, he is proposing building a highway that would pass through our neighbourhood. What does this highway mean for our community and the Middle East Technical University (METU)?
- Thousands of trees will be cut down in the METU forest, which is a Category 1 natural conservation site.
- The Yüzüncü Yıl and Çiğdem districts will be split into two.
- Our quiet and peaceful neighbourhood will be drowned in exhaust fumes and noise as forty thousands vehicles will run across the highway everyday.
- Rent-seeking will mean our respected neighbourhood will turn into an area stripped of green space and covered with giant apartment blocks. Rising rents will force tenants out of the neighbourhood.
- The İşçi Blokları district will be declared an “urban transformation” zone. But this will not help apartment owners, as they will sink deeper into debt.
- The highway will open the floodgates for the construction of other roads that will carve up and destroy the METU forest.
- This highway will not solve Ankara’s traffic problem.
And Why Not?
- Traffic problems in large cities can only be solved through enhancing and expanding public transit. A subway system needs be built under arterial roads and be integrated with ground transportation. However, Mayor Gökçek has not expanded the subway since 1997, and encouraged driving automobiles by building pedestrian over- and underpasses. This is the root cause of the problem.
- On top of failing to improve public transit, the city allowed the construction of shopping malls on all arterial roads, showing their lack of urban planning and exacerbating the traffic problem. This is why the solution is not to keep building new roads but proper urban planning.